Brook Manville, "The Civic Bargain: How Democracy Survives"

Main Point Books welcomes Brook Manville and special guest Brenner Fissell for a discussion about how we heal our democracy through a return to the civic bargain that sustained the world's longest enduring democracies.

The event begins at 7 pm in our new lower level event space. Registrations are requested via Eventbrite; walks-ins will be welcome. Books are available for purchase through Eventbrite, the store's website, and at the event. Signed copies can be shipped across the US and will be shipped after the event.

Brook Manville

Brook Manville is an independent consultant who writes about politics, democracy, technology, and business. Previously a partner with McKinsey & Co. and an award-winning professor at Northwestern University, he is the author of "The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens" and "A Company of Citizens: What the World’s First Democracy Teaches Leaders About Creating Great Organizations."

Brenner Fissell

Brenner M. Fissell is Associate Professor of Law at Villanova University. Fissell's research focuses on the political theory of criminal law, especially as it relates to the criminal law of local governments. A secondary research interest is military criminal law. Fissell's scholarship has appeared in general law reviews such as the Fordham Law Review, as well as peer-reviewed journals such as Legal Theory.

About the Book

Is democracy in trouble, perhaps even dying? Pundits say so, and polls show that most Americans believe that their country’s system of governance is being “tested” or is “under attack.” But is the future of democracy necessarily so dire? In The Civic Bargain, Brook Manville and Josiah Ober push back against the prevailing pessimism about the fate of democracy around the world. Instead of an epitaph for democracy, they offer a guide for democratic renewal, calling on citizens to recommit to a “civic bargain” with one another to guarantee civic rights of freedom, equality, and dignity. That bargain also requires them to fulfill the duties of democratic citizenship: governing themselves with no “boss” except one another, embracing compromise, treating each other as civic friends, and investing in civic education for each rising generation.


Manville and Ober trace the long progression toward self-government through four key moments in democracy’s history: Classical Athens, Republican Rome, Great Britain’s constitutional monarchy, and America’s founding. Comparing what worked and what failed in each case, they draw out lessons for how modern democracies can survive and thrive. Manville and Ober show that democracy isn’t about getting everything we want; it’s about agreeing on a shared framework for pursuing our often conflicting aims. Crucially, citizens need to be able to compromise, and must not treat one another as political enemies. And we must accept imperfection; democracy is never finished but evolves and renews itself continually. As long as the civic bargain is maintained—through deliberation, bargaining, and compromise—democracy will live.

Event date: 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Event address: 

Main Point Books


The Civic Bargain: How Democracy Survives By Brook Manville, Josiah Ober Cover Image
ISBN: 9780691218601
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Princeton University Press - September 19th, 2023